So Tony Squires previewing Episode 1 of the second series of Redfern Now.
The first episode in the return of Redfern Now (ABC1, 8.30pm) is worthy of a standing ovation. Once I’d stopped bawling, that’s what I did. Having already received glory and awards for its first outing, this second instalment of the drama written, directed and produced by indigenous Australians had much to live up to. Turns out it was easy…
In essence, gay Aboriginal man Peter (Kirk Page) fights his partner’s mother (Noni Hazlehurst) over what is best for his daughter, Amy (Saskia Williscroft). It’s bigger than that, but that’ll do you.
Kirk Page as gay dancer Peter and Noni Hazlehurst as down-to-earth martinet grandma Margaret open the second season of socially searching Redfern Now.
Heartbreak, loss, homophobia, alcohol abuse, self-pity and love, love, love. These are just some of the issues that are batted around in a script that is moving yet economical. But it’s the performances that will thrill you….
Aboriginal boxer Anthony Mundine, a Redfern and national identity and an icon to some, was not thrilled.
Um… All three images are linked to sources.
Walking back late one night in 1987 through Redfern up Cleveland Street and past Eveleigh Street headed from the Britannia Hotel to my then residence in Bennett Street Surry Hills I encountered an Aboriginal drag queen. We struck up conversation. “What is it like being in several oppressed minority groups at once?” I asked. I had had a good night and may have been tipsy. He – she was a he at this moment – laughed. “Maybe some places they would spear me…”
Black Pearls? There a quite a few gay aboriginals out and about and a few organisations. It is my experience that aboriginals are relatively accepting / cool with/of gays and gay sex and bisexuality. I understand that indigenous gays identify first as being black then 2nd as fag, so something. I’ve sensed a common bond/ empathy between aboriginals and gays as we are both marginal and discriminated minorities and often live in the inner-city. – 2011 Same/Same Forum
Or maybe he would have met Anthony Mundine, who seems to have avoided what is a rather obvious and very visible aspect of Aboriginal life in Australia – in the 1980s and earlier and now. (Dear me! Anthony Mundine was only 12 years old in 1987!) You might like to read Wayne King’s autobiography Black Hours, here reviewed by Christos Tsialkos.
For a reader accustomed to ‘gay’ texts which presume a willingness to explore sexuality and sex, Black Hours can prove to be disappointing. King’s homosexuality remains oblique in the narrative, not unimportant, but rarely explored and analysed. Whereas his identification as an Aborigine sustains the narrative and gives passion to the writing, his homosexuality is tangential. Early on he reminisces that in meeting white gay men he was hoping to find a solidarity built on a shared experience of oppression, but that hope was quickly disappointed when confronted with their racism. The dominant thematic concerns of much ‘gay’ literature are not in evidence in Black Hours. Coming out, descriptions of sex, love and romance. If anything, the experience of ‘coming out’ is divorced from sexuality and instead is defined through King’s attempts to understand his cultural and racial background…
I wanted more examination of his psyche, his own vulnerability and confusions, but that isn’t the purpose of Black Hours. It is more a history lesson, a polemic about the devastation of racism. The reality of race relations in this country makes his project necessary and vital. His experiences of these relationships are what gives Black Hours its own authority as a text: its value as history. His authority, however, is individual, not defined through the social and the spiritual. To read the book as a defining of all homosexual Aboriginal experience would be a mistake that would deny King’s own relationship to the shifting and complex fragmentations of contemporary life. King’s truth is not ‘unauthentic’ in its individuality, to be counterpoised to the ‘traditionally authentic’ paintings of the Warlpiri. Instead, reading Black Hours confirms the impossibility of authenticity itself….
…I believe both queer and theories of post-colonialism share a genesis in post-modern cultural theory, and in the contemporary conflicts between the urban and the rural, between the nation state and globalisation. But anti-racist politics do not wish to refute the importance of cultural identification though they might resist the traditional alignment of ethnicity and race to Blood, God and/or Nation. An engaged and constructive debate concerning the relationship of Aboriginality to ‘gay’ culture might prove illuminating about the limitations and possibilities for identity, and might open up a long-silenced debate within non-heterosexual communities about the racism involved in the economic exchanges of bodies and sex within homosexual cultures. King refers obliquely to this possibility when he discusses how white Australians who were open in their racism against him were openly desiring and accommodating of African-Americans. The value of being black is then not only a matter of skin colour.
There is a remarkable opinion piece on the front page of today’s Sydney Morning Herald by chief sports writer Andrew Webster.
I never thought I would write this column, but I am because of Michael Kirby.
It’s about 10 years ago, and I am sitting in the third row of the second tier of the Sydney Football Stadium – the best place in the world to watch footy, and the stadium where I have watched so much of it.
Rugby league grand finals. Wallabies Test matches. Maradona playing the Socceroos. Throw in a U2 concert.
This time, though, I am not watching sport. I am 26. I am confused. I am angry. Actually, I am pissed off. I’m not entirely sure who with.
I am at war with the world and myself and terrifying everyone who knows me because they fear the unaccountable and loose behaviour from their colleague, their mate, their brother, their son for the past year or so is likely to kill someone, and that person is likely to be himself.
On this night at the SFS, I am at the opening of the Gay Games and Michael Kirby, the Honourable Justice of the High Court of Australia, is about to deliver a speech that stays with me today.
One line stands out.
“Little did my partner Johan and I think, 30 years ago, that we would be at the opening of a Gay Games with the Queen’s representative and all of you to bear witness to such a social revolution. Never did we think we would be dancing together in a football stadium. And with the Governor. And that the Governor would be a woman.
“If an angel had tapped us on our youthful shoulders and told us of tonight we would have said ‘impossible’. Well, nothing is impossible to the human spirit.”
The words hit me like a bolt of lightning….
I wrote this column about 13 months ago, and it was put on ice on the advice of others, but when Newcastle Knights player Ryan Stig compares homosexuality to the work of Satan, as he did a week ago, it’s time to roll.
Stig wrote, in a post on Twitter: “Satan has worked so hard throughout culture and society to remove the belief in a Creator … Same-sex marriage laws starting to be passed in this country are a good indicator of this … One thing we are hearing more is that homosexuality can be genetically traced. Well, if that is the case, there’s as much proof of alcoholism, yet there are no parades for alcoholic pride.”
I’ve never felt the need to walk in a parade, although I’m certain the devil is responsible for several hangovers.
Did Satan force me to be gay? I can’t remember having the conversation with him. There was a time I wish I could blame him, but now I know it was the reasoning of Mother Nature.
The Knights’ limp response – “These comments are the personal opinion of Ryan Stig” – and the NRL’s lack of one completely does not surprise. Would the game have been so silent if such discriminatory remarks were made about indigenous Australians? Or women?
The reassuring part is that Stig does not represent rugby league.
I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard smart-arse, derogatory remarks from a player. I’ve lost count of the times when past and present players, coaches and officials have put an arm around me in the last 13 or so years and told me they could not care less…
Do note that the article is headed How Michael Kirby saved my life! It also fits well with what needs to be said following Anthony Mundine’s post on Redfern Now.
When I was on the welfare committee at SBHS earlier this century I posted the following on my school site, now my English/ESL archive.
A great and gay Australian, and his speech at the 2002 Gay Games
Justice MICHAEL KIRBY is an Australian High Court Judge who came out a couple of years back by listing his partner in “Who’s Who in Australia”. In June 2000 I had the opportunity to hear Justice Kirby speak: a beautiful man.
Here is an extract from an article by Justice Kirby that appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, reflecting on people’s reactions to a speech he gave [MS Word file] to a group of secondary students in February 2000 at a Jesuit college preparatory school. You may read it there for yourself, courtesy of PFLAG.
Sexuality is no ‘lifestyle’. Its sources lie deep in human nature. It is not chosen; it is a given. In all but the rarest case (and that dubious) it cannot be changed, only suppressed. It is the source of the deep motivation shared by all humans to seek out love and companionship and wholeness of being with another. It is an indelible feature of human existence. It cannot be expunged.
You would be surprised if you were to read the messages of hate that I have received in the past two years concerning my sexuality. Strange, disturbed letters contorted by rage and spitting contempt. Sadly, most of them are written by people who conceive of themselves as religious…
Justice Kirby also spoke at the Opening Ceremony of the 2002 Gay Games in Sydney:
Under different stars, at the beginning of a new millennium, in an old land and a young nation, we join together in the hope and conviction that the future will be kinder and more just than the past. At a time when there is so much fear and danger, anger and destruction, these Games represent an alternative vision for humanity. Acceptance. Diversity. Inclusiveness. Participation. Tolerance and joy. Ours is the world of love, questing to find the common links that bind all people. We participate because, whatever our sexuality, we believe that the days of exclusion are numbered. In our future world, everyone can find their place, where their human rights and human dignity will be upheld.
This is a great time for Australia because we are a nation in the process of reinventing ourselves. We began our modern history by denying the existence of our indigenous peoples and their rights. We embraced White Australia. Women could play little part in public life: their place was in the kitchen. And as for gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities, they were an abomination. Lock them up. Throw away the key. We have not corrected all these wrongs. But we are surely on the road to enlightenment. There will be no U-turns. Little did my partner Johan and I think, 30 years ago, as we danced the night away at the Purple Onion, less than a mile away, that we would be at the opening of a Gay Games with the Queen’s representative and so many to bear witness to such a social revolution. True, we rubbed shoulders on the dance floor with knights of the realm, such as Sir Robert Helpmann, and with future premiers, such as Don Dunstan. But if an angel had tapped us on our youthful shoulders and told us of such a change we would have said “impossible”. Well, nothing is impossible to the human spirit. Scientific truth ultimately prevails. So we unite together: men and women, indigenous and newcomers, black and white, Australians and visitors, religious and atheist, young and not so young, gay and straight.
It is put best by Corey Czok, an Australian basketballer in these Gay Games. “It’s good to be able to throw out the stereotypes,” he says. “We’re not all sissies, we don’t all look the same and we’re not all pretty!” His last comment may be disputed. Real beauty lies in the fact that so many are united — not in the negatives of hate and exclusion, so common today, but in the positives of love and inclusion.
The changes Australia has witnessed over 30 years would not have happened if it had not been for people of courage who rejected the ignorant denials about sexuality. Who taught that variations are a normal and universal aspect of the human species. That they are not going away. That they are no big deal. And that, between consenting adults, we all just have to get used to it and get on with life.
The people of courage certainly include Oscar Wilde. His suffering, his interpretation of it and the ordeal of many others have bought such changes for us. I would include Alfred Kinsey. In the midst of the McCarthyist era in the United States he, and those who followed, dared to investigate the real facts about human sexual diversity. In Australia, I would also include, as heroes, politicians of every major party, most of them heterosexual. Over 30 years, they have dismantled many of the unequal laws. But the first of them was Don Dunstan. He proved, once again, the astonishing fact that good things sometimes occur when the dancing stops. I would also add Rodney Croome and Nick Toonen. They took Australia to the United Nations to get rid of the last criminal laws against gay men in Tasmania. Now the decision in their case stands for the whole world. I would include Neal Blewett, who led Australia’s first battles against AIDS. Robyn Archer, Kerryn Phelps, Ian Roberts and many, many others.
Yet this is not just an Australian story. In every land a previously frightened and oppressed minority is awakening from a long sleep to assert its human dignity. We should honour those who looked into themselves and spoke the truth. Now they are legion. It is the truth that makes us free. I think of Tom Waddell, the inspired founder of the Gay Games. His last words in this life were: “This should be interesting.” What an understatement. Of Greg Louganis, twice Olympic gold medallist, who came out as gay and HIV-positive and said that it was the Gay Games that emboldened him to tell it as it was. Of Mark Bingham, a rowdy Rugby player. He would have been at the Sydney Gay Games. But he lost his life in one of the planes downed on 11 September 2001, struggling to save the lives of others. He was a real hero. Of Bertrand Delano, the openly gay mayor of Paris, stabbed by a homophobe whilst attending a celebration at city hall. He showed courage. His last instruction before he was taken to hospital was that the party should go on till sunrise. Indeed, I think of everyone who affirms the fundamental unity of all human beings. Who rejects ignorance, hatred and error. And who embraces love, which is the ultimate foundation of all human rights.
Let the word go out from Sydney and the Gay Games of 2002 that the movement for equality is unstoppable. Its message will eventually reach the four corners of the world. The Games will be another catalyst to help make that happen. Be sure that, in the end, inclusion will replace exclusion. For the sake of the planet and of humanity it must be so. And by our lives let us be an example of respect for human rights. Not just for gays. For everyone.
Not saying Anthony Mundine is a shag on a rock, or even that everyone who has reservations about gay marriage is a homophobe – though Mundine rather clearly is, it seems. Such a shame. Sadly too it reminds us that taking any eccentric as “speaking for” Indigenous Australia is a big mistake, one we too often commit and one some Indigenous groups and spokespersons rather encourage themselves.
A rather interesting view on gay marriage from a very sophisticated Muslim perspective, though he would be the last to say his views are representative or definitive, may be seen in a piece by the wonderful Waleed Aly. Very thought-provoking.
A final couple of personal pics from my archives of people who escaped Anthony Mundine’s observation in inner Sydney in 2005 in this case.
Yes all Queer As, Anthony! The top one is Lord Malcolm, who passed away in 2007. These were taken at a picnic he organised in the Botanical Gardens for Mardi Gras 2005. That is just a friend he is with, but Malcolm’s partner, who had committed suicide some time before, was a dancer with the Bangarra group. The second is another friend, a Bundjalung man – as is Anthony Mundine! — and an artist.
Last night I wrote on Facebook:
Just goes to show anyone can be a bigot. He clearly has not been paying attention to some of the most active and important Aboriginal individuals and cultural organisations in Sydney, let alone the rest of the country. I have known couples such as those depicted last night — my late friend “Lord Malcolm” was part of one — and my only reservation would be that the housing depicted was a bit too swish perhaps. Where have you been, Anthony?